How to Quash a Protest
According to NYT op-ed contributor Russell Leigh Moses the Chinese authorities have employed a successful and repeatable formula in controlling the protests in Xinjiang Province that have claimed more than 150 lives.
Step 1: Cut off cellphone and Internet Access
Many Chinese officials are quite sophisticated in their responses to threats to their governance, and they are not tone-deaf to technology. Cellphone service and Internet access were both blocked within a few hours of the first demonstrations in Xinjiang.
Step 2: Control the message
When word of the unrest cascaded out, much of the news was artfully managed by officials. Friends of mine in Beijing received unsolicited messages on their cellphones that provided the government version of the unrest. Government representatives handed out discs with pictures taken by state news organizations.
The state news media talked up the looting and burning of Han businesses but said nothing about attacks on Uighur establishments, and repeated mantras about stability and order.
Step 3: Crack down forcefully
Rumors ran rampant in the run-up to these riots, but at the end of the day, bullets flew faster and struck harder than netizens’ bulletins.
Step 4: Reward successful repression of dissent
Party cadres know that Beijing’s leadership is largely composed of officials who have not been shy about using force when protests emerged. For example, the crushing of dissent that took place in Beijing and Tibet in 1989 is seen by Chinese decision-makers and the cadres they sponsor as creating the conditions for economic reform. Party members seem to be keenly aware that that those who supported the crackdowns were quickly helicoptered into high-level positions.
An authoritarian regime with the will to crush dissent and the wherewithal to do so can stay in power indefinitely. Those are critical differences between the Chinese regime and the Soviet. The Chinese regime still has the willingness to crack down with whatever force is necessary to keep itself in control and, buoyed with trade dollars, it has plenty of resources to do it with.
Above paramilitary police patrol in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Province.